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Head-to-head: Darfur situation

Gamal Nrumah (L) and Eric Reeves (R)
Gamal Nkrumah and Eric Reeves debated Darfur's complex issues
Gamal Nkrumah, the foreign editor of leading Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, and Eric Reeves, professor at Smith College (Massachusetts) and a Sudan researcher and analyst, debate what action the international community should take over the worsening conflict and humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

In the face of rapidly accelerating genocidal destruction in Darfur, and given the ongoing collapse of humanitarian operations in vast areas of this devastated region, the international community should issue an ultimatum to the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) regime in Khartoum: Immediately accept the robust force stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (31 August, 2006) or face non-consensual deployment of the forces required to protect civilians and humanitarians.

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The phrase "international community" is often used as a euphemism for the United States and other Western powers' political agendas. Non-consensual deployment of foreign, non-African troops, is a non-starter.

It is an act of aggression that infringes on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sudan.

Peacekeepers on guard at the Kutum base of South African peacekeepers in northern Darfur
About 7,000 African Union troops are deployed in Darfur

As stipulated by Resolution 1706, the deployment of foreign peacekeeping troops must have prior and explicit approval of the Sudanese authorities. Previous US-led military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq have aggravated the situation in the respective countries. The worse scenario is for Darfur to denigrate further into an Iraqi or Afghan quagmire.

The only way forward is to strengthen the African Union peacekeeping contingency in Darfur in both financial and logistical terms.

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

The international community, as represented in Resolution 1706, has implicitly but clearly recognised the radical inability of the African Union force in Darfur.

Two refugee girls leave Fata Borno's refugee camp to fetch water in Darfur, Sudan
No conceivable augmentation of the AU can possibly staunch the flow of genocidal violence in Darfur
Eric Reeves
Sudan researcher and analyst

No conceivable augmentation of the AU can possibly staunch the flow of genocidal violence in Darfur, protect the more than four million conflict-affected persons in this vast region (including eastern Chad), or provide the protection necessary for the humanitarian operations upon which this desperate population depends - operations that are now collapsing ("in free fall" was how they were described by UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland a month ago).

Although 1706 "invites" Khartoum's consent, it does not require it.

While 1706 explicitly guarantees the Sudan's national sovereignty, it was passed under Chapter VII authority and confers enforcement authority upon a deploying force. What is required is not Khartoum's consent but the international will to accept unambiguously the "responsibility to protect" civilians threatened by genocide, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity - a responsibility unanimously accepted by the UN at its World Summit in September 2005 and explicitly reaffirmed by the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1674 (April 2006).

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

A girl in a Darfur refugee camp
More than two million people have been displaced during the conflict

The international community would serve the interests of the people of Darfur if wealthier countries - oil-rich Gulf Arab, Western and Japan - treble humanitarian relief assistance, development aid and step up medical and relief supplies in the short term.

In the longer term, trade and development aid, including investments in medical and educational services, would be vital.

Also of paramount importance is improved logistical and financial support for African Union peacekeepers in Darfur.

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

There can be no doubt that when violence finally ends, the people of Darfur - particularly the targeted non-Arab or African tribal populations - will need immense financial resources to rebuild their lives and communities after three-and-a-half years of genocidal destruction orchestrated by the Khartoum regime.

See which parts of Darfur are too dangerous for aid workers

This destruction has included the burning of thousands of villages, deliberate poisoning of water wells with human and animal corpses, destruction of food- and seed-stocks, and looting of cattle (representing generations of wealth).

But while international assistance will be required, most of this reconstruction financing should come from Khartoum, which is overwhelmingly responsible for the deliberate, ethnically-targeted destruction of lives and livelihoods throughout Darfur.

International mechanisms, with effective enforcement mechanism, should be devised so that Sudan's massive oil revenues (Sudan is now the third largest oil producer in Africa) are directed equitably and efficiently to Darfur.

Other international aid will be required; but the genocidaires must be forced to accept responsibility for the economically devastating consequences of their brutality and savage conduct of the war.

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The flurry of diplomatic activity concerning Darfur shows that Sudan is already attracting world attention. British international cooperation minister Hilary Benn and US Sudan envoy Andrew Natsios's recent trips to Sudan, for example.

President Bush talking to Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade about Darfur
It is Sudan's oil, like Iraq's oil, which fuels American interest in Sudan
Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram Foreign Editor

I suspect, though, that oil and not human rights are the main motivation behind the heightened interest of US President George W Bush in Sudan.

It is Sudan's oil, like Iraq's oil, which fuels American interest in Sudan.

Moreover, it is oil which is strengthening Sudan's international position. UN Security Council permanent member China, for example, which imports 6% of its oil from Sudan, will veto any anti-Sudan sanctions.

The Sudanese authorities capitalise upon Chinese support.

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

Critical to understanding the issues of oil development and revenues in Sudan is the country's geography: all current oil development, exploration, and production occurs in southern Sudan or along the traditional North/South border.

There is no evidence of oil in Darfur
Eric Reeves
Sudan researcher and analyst

Moreover, the concession rights for oil development are virtually all sewn up by Asian companies and TotalFinaElf of France. The effort to suggest that oil interests in Darfur - where there is no present oil production or exploration - are what lie behind Western diplomacy is deeply misleading.

In fact, there is no credible evidence that Darfur has significant oil reserves.

As has been suggested, what is of real significance is that China, Khartoum's primary diplomatic ally at the UN, dominates the two major producing consortia in southern Sudan and southern Kordofan province.

If we want to understand why the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) feels so emboldened in defying the international community, and in pursuing its genocidal counter-insurgency warfare in Darfur, we should look not to Western but to Chinese oil interests.

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

Chad, Darfur's neighbour to the immediate West has huge oil reserves, there is no doubt that there are oil reserves in Darfur itself. The Chinese and TotalFinaElf of France know all too well that the potential for exploiting Darfur's oil in commercial quantities is tremendous.

The US is most concerned about the Chinese, other Asian and French monopoly of Sudanese oil.

Darfur is of great strategic importance it straddles Libya, Egypt, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

Sudan has accepted African Union peacekeeping troops in Darfur. So it is best for all concerned if AU troops are deployed to keep the peace in Darfur.

The AU troops, however, must have financial and logistical support from the UN and Western powers as well as oil-rich Gulf Arab countries. Only then will peace prevail in Darfur.

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

There is no evidence of oil in Darfur.

Reserves in more westerly parts of Chad tell us nothing about Darfur; there is no geologic evidence, no seismic data - nothing that indicates there is oil in Darfur.

But there is a terrifyingly great deal of evidence about the scale of human destruction that will ensue if we do not respond urgently to the acute lack of human security.

The largely destroyed and abandoned market place in Madu village, Darfur
Four million people have been affected by the conflict in Darfur

With or without Khartoum's consent, the international community must uphold its "responsibility to protect civilians" in Darfur - civilians not simply unprotected by the National Islamic Front/National Congress regime - but targets of an ongoing genocidal campaign orchestrated in Khartoum.

Such "responsibility to protect" supersedes claims of national sovereignty. This principle was the explicit conclusion of the UN World Summit Outcome Document, paragraph 139, unanimously adopted in September 2005.

The AU is simply incapable of being transformed into a force that can take up this responsibility with sufficient urgency; it cannot possibly become the force contemplated in UN Security Council Resolution 1706.

To pretend otherwise is the treat with a scandalous moral carelessness the lives of more than four million conflict-affected Darfuris.

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The interests of the US should not be confused with the interests of the international community. It is clear that the aggression against Iraq was a pretext to control the vast oil reserves of that country.

The US must stay out of Darfur
Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram Foreign Editor

Human rights and democratisation had nothing to do with the Bush administration's aims.

Abu Ghraib and numerous other atrocities committed against the people of Iraq clearly demonstrated that the US is not interested in the welfare of the people of Iraq. Neither is the Bush administration interested in the welfare of the people of Darfur.

The main goal of the Bush administration, with its extensive oil interests, is to challenge Chinese oil interests and economic clout in Sudan.

The so-called "international peacekeeping force" is a euphemism for foreign military intervention which is destined to have disastrous repercussions for the people of Darfur and Sudan as a whole.

The US must stay out of Darfur.

Eric Reeves, Massachusetts, US

To invoke Iraq and Abu Ghraib when the issue clearly is saving lives in Darfur is disingenuous.

That Iraq was a terribly misconceived debacle that will haunt US foreign policy for years could not be clearer; but this doesn't diminish in the slightest the extraordinarily urgent need for international protection of the more than four million human beings the UN estimates are affected by genocidal conflict in Darfur and eastern Chad.

Just as urgent is the protection of those aid operations upon which this vast population grows increasingly dependent: humanitarian access shrinks almost daily, with many hundreds of thousands of Darfuris completely beyond the reach of food and medical assistance, living without adequate clean water or shelter.

Khartoum continues its large military offensives in North and West Darfur, and in such a context the African Union force currently deployed, even if augmented, is simply incapable of providing protection to the civilian and humanitarian populations.

UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which Khartoum defiantly rejects, provides an appropriate international force of 22,500 troops and civilian police, as well as a strong civilian protection mandate.

This force must deploy with or without Khartoum's consent, with whatever additional forces are required if consent is denied.

The alternative is to watch from afar as - in the words of UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland, "the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost."

Gamal Nkrumah, Cairo, Egypt

The ongoing aggression of the Sudanese authorities against innocent civilians is deplorable. However, a Western, US and Nato-led military intervention to end the Darfur crisis would have the opposite and extremely negative impact on a volatile region.

Co-operation between Arabs and indigenous non-Arab communities is the only way forward
Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram Foreign Editor

The fighting in Darfur cannot be seen in isolation of the wider regional context.

The arid Sahel region of Africa, and Darfur is very much a part of the Sahel, has witnessed a scramble over meagre resources especially between nomadic, mainly but not exclusively, Arab tribes and pastoralists with non-Arab agriculturalists, and has become endemic in the area.

The crisis-ridden region of the Sahel is a political powder-keg.

Western intervention would exacerbate matters.

In Niger ethnic Arabs, known as the Mahamid, have recently been threatened with deportation. In neighbouring Chad, the authorities have accused Khartoum of supporting the armed opposition groups including the Union of forces for Democracy and Development.

The only way forward is to strengthen the AU forces by logistical and financial support on a massive scale.

Oil-rich Arab countries, Western nations and Asian trade partners of Khartoum must step up aid and trade with Sudan in order to reinvigorate the Sudanese economy, and especially the Darfur economy shattered by years of war.

The international community must multiply humanitarian and development assistance to Darfur instead of sending in troops and instigating more fighting.

Peace must prevail in Darfur and the entire Sahel region.

Co-operation between Arabs and indigenous non-Arab communities is the only way forward, but it must be buttressed with international development aid.


What do you think? Do you agree with Eric Reeves or Gamal Nkrumah? What should the international community do?

I agree primarily with Eric Reeves. While a cursory, Google-powered investigation of the natural resources in Darfur suggests to me that there may in fact be commercial quantities of oil in the region, I do not believe that the concern of the thousands of people agitating internationally for UN intervention in Darfur is neither commercial nor imperial. Resolution 1706 stipulates that a multinational force should use force to prevent and intervene in acts of violence against civilians and, as in southern Sudan, this intervention in the context of an effective political settlement has the potential to bring at least a tentative peace to the region.
Isaac Rowlett, Milwaukee, WI (USA)

Since Darfur has been declared as a place where genocide is committed, the Sudanese govt has no right to dictate what forces intl community will bring to restore peace. I agree with Mr Gamal because he has first hand knowledge of what western intervention will bring. The downfall of Khartoum govt. It happened to his father - the champion of African cause.
BAKRI KENNA, phoenix, usa

I strongly agree with Eric Reeves. I think what the international community should do is to apply the UN resolution 1706 immediately. The lives of the civilians are very important. The case of Darfur is only to be solved by international community. AU or Arab community can not and will never do it. It is beyond their power and control.

US is not interested in the oil of any nation as Cairo think. Instead Cairo wants Southern Sudan and Darfur to surfer and remain poor and if possible all must die because of the water of the Nile. God of Heaven has entrusted American Nation and UN to solve the problems of the oppressed people as well of the whole world. According to my opinion, US and UN should use force as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq for sake of children and women in Darfur.

And I am also appealing to US and UN to protect the CPA between the South and the North Sudan so that no one should play with the agreement. Until we vote on 9.01.2010 for the independence of the Southern Sudanese people. Long live George Bush and long live American people and long live UN.
Francis Oryem Oyet Anakleto, Newcastle, Australia

I'm quite disturbed at Nkrumah's arguments - in the face of what is by any measure a genocidal crime by Khartoum; I fail to understand why anyone would hide behind anti-western propaganda to let the people of Darfur suffer. I agree with Reeves - there is utterly no need for any consent from Khartoum. Every day the international community fails to act, I become more convinced that the life of a black Africa is seen as dispensable. Is there any morality in international politics? I wonder.
Justice Tankebe, Cambridge, UK

Mr Nkrumah predictably blames the USA and the west whereas Mr Reeves is entirely naive. These problems have 2 causes:
1. British and French colonialist mindset when between the two of them they created dozens of 'artificial' countries completely ignoring tribal and ethnic make-up of the region.
2. Islam's drive for expansion at non-Muslims expense (because that's what it is).
Marcel, The Hague

The best solution for Darfur's on going conflict is to support the AU forces that already in Sudan. The paranoia way of thinking of Sudan govt. and majority of Sudanese people towards UN keeping force is based on countless evidences of UN partiality and mysterious agenda in post conflict environments in many parts of the world. Just look to the gross partiality that exercised on daily bases by the UN peace keeping force in the tiny state of Eritrea. The UN peace keeping force there is always working in favour of the USA's ally "Ethiopia" although Eritrea has win the award of the international arbitrary court to their disputed territory.

Regrettably, there is no a clear definition between the UN and USA. This ambiguity is supported by the endless interference of US administration in the work of UN. Please leave the Sudan for the Sudanese. We are capable of solving our own created problems by our own will.
Ahmed Qasm Elbari, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia



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